Have you ever wondered why we urinate? Urination occurs as a result of the removal of excess liquid and wastes from the blood in the form of urine. The liquids pass through the kidneys which are the organs responsible for the filtration of the said wastes from the bloodstream. Normally, urination is an easy, painless body function. But people who experience urinating with only very small amounts of liquid coupled with a burning sensation, the situation is really far from being normal. Chances are, these people are suffering from Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), the second most common type of infection in the body which affects the urinary tract.
Urine is normally sterile. It is usually free of bacteria, viruses, and fungi and only contains fluids, salts, and waste products. However, when bacteria gets into the bladder or kidney, these microbes multiply in the urine and causes a bacterial infection in the urethra, the short tube where urine passes from the bladder to the outside of the body. This is called urethritis.
Another type of UTI is cystitis which is a bacterial infection of the bladder. This is the most common type of UTI which causes minor discomfort and can be easily treated. Without proper treatment, it may lead to the third and more serious type of UTI which involves infection of the kidneys, known as pyeloniphritis. This type of UTI makes a person experience back pain, high fever and vomiting.
Usually, women are more prone to UTI than men due to the differences in the shape and length of the urethra. Women have shorter urethras compared to men, where the opening is located closer to the rectum and vagina — parts were bacteria are likely to be found.
UTI can also be caused by an abnormality in the structure and/or function of the urinary tract. One of the most common functional problems encountered is called vesicoureteral reflux, a condition in which some urine flows backward, or refluxes, from the bladder into the ureters and even up to the kidneys.
UTI is not contagious. However, during sexual intercourse, the bacteria in the vaginal area may be pushed into the urethra and eventually end up in the bladder, where urine provides a good environment for the bacteria to grow. For this reason, women who are sexually active often get UTI. Bacteria can also get through the urethra of women by wiping from back to front after a bowel movement, which can contaminate the urethral opening. The use of contraceptives, such as condoms treated with spermicide and diaphragms, may also increase the risk of getting a urinary tract infection.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STD) like chlamydia may cause UTI-like symptoms, such as pain during urination due to the inflammation and irritation of the urethra or vagina. Unlike UTI, STDs are contagious and when left untreated, STDs may lead to serious long-term problems which includes pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.
There are several symptoms associated with UTI. Symptoms of bladder infections include:
burning or pain during urination
the feeling of having to pee even though little or no urine actually comes out
pain in the lower abdomen
pain above the pubic bone (in women)
a full feeling in the rectum (in men)
bloody or foul-smelling urine
a general feeling of shakiness and fatigue
With kidney infections, more serious symptoms involve:
nausea and vomiting
cloudy or bloody urine
back pain just above the waist
The moment you realize that you have any symptoms of a urinary tract infection, immediately consult your doctor. Ignoring the symptoms will only worsen the condition. Early treatment makes it less uncomfortable and faster to heal.
To prevent urinary tract infections, avoid holding urine for long periods of time. Keep the genital areas clean and dry. Women should wipe from front to back with toilet paper after every urination. Reverse the wiping directions after bowel movements to avoid spreading bacteria from the rectal area to the urethra. Change tampons and pads regularly during menstruation periods. Avoid bubble baths that can cause irritation of the vaginal area. Do not wear nylon underwear or wet swimsuits for long periods of time. Prolonged exposure to moisture in the genital area can cause fungal or bacterial infections. Choose underwear with cotton crotches. Skip using feminine hygiene sprays or douches which can irritate the urethra.
Sexually active people should visit the bathroom both before and within 15 minutes after intercourse. After the sexual intercourse, gently wash the genital area to remove any bacteria. Use a water-soluble lubricant such as K-Y Jelly.
Keep the bladder active and bacteria-free by drinking lots of water everyday. Always bear in mind that urinary tract infections may be uncomfortable and often painful, but it can easily be prevented through proper hygiene.